Author(s): Robert Greenfield
Recorded during the blazing-hot summer of 1971 in the basement of Keith Richards's palatial mansion by the sea in the south of France, Exile on Main Street freezes forever in time a moment when the Stones and their counterculture audience found themselves at a crossroads. Groundbreaking music journalist Robert Greenfield was there. Night after night for weeks on end while their wives, girlfriends, and a crew of assorted hangerson unrivalled in the history of rock smoked marijuana and hashish, snorted cocaine, drank whatever they could get their hands on, and injected themselves with heroin upstairs, the Stones descended like coal miners into a dank, humid basement to lay down tracks. As Mick and Keith were writing the songs that eventually comprised Exile, a variety of celebrities, among them John and Yoko Ono Lennon and Gram Parsons, descended on the villa, and so did a sinister band of local drug dealers known to one and all as "les cowboys." While the work of recording any album is rarely joyful and the Stones themselves were already known to be perfectionists in the studio, the process that brought Exile on Main Street into the world was an exercise in extreme group dynamics unparalleled even in their own tortured history. Literally and figuratively, this was a record made in hell. First published 2006.